It’s a miracle he lived, and it’s a miracle he has survived for so many years, according to Stan Westmoreland.
At age 20 his brother, Steve answered a serious question, and “he didn’t give it a second thought.” Stan needed a kidney, and Steve answered the call.
Now not only are Stan and Steve celebrating the 40th anniversary of the kidney transplant, Stan is one of the longest living people to received a kidney.
This story started long before the two men were looking forward to celebrating their 60th birthday. It started on the day their mom, Ruby Louise Marlow Westmoreland, gave birth to them in 1961.
“When our mother was expecting there were no ultrasounds available,” Pam Westmoreland Craven explained, as her mother was very intuitive and, “she knew there were two babies in there.”
Sure enough, on April 19, Mrs. Westmoreland, and he husband, Bobby, welcomed twin boys. Although Dr. Scoggins, at the old BJC Medical Center told them, “There were no incubators. The only hope for this baby was to get him into an incubator at Northeast Georgia Medical Center,” Mrs. Craven continued. “So the doctor tightly wrapped him up in blankets, put him in a car, and drove to Gainesville.”
“We didn’t think he would live,” explained the siblings’ aunts, Dianne Marlow Wills, Belva Massey Marlow, and Lena Marlow Griswell. He was born with Prune Belly Syndrome, and his intestines were outside the body when he was born.
Stan, who seems to have a near perfect memory, detailed the ins and outs of his childhood. He has been in and out of doctor’s offices all of his life going from Commerce to Gainesville, Augusta, Atlanta, Virginia, and to the Mayo Clinic. When he was a toddler, he had the surgery to repair his intestines.
While the bills were adding up, help was on the way. The trio praised the March of Dimes for their help because their dad was going to stop at nothing to be sure their son was able to get the help he needed. The family also acknowledged the Banks County community as well. The county nurse would bring medicine, milk, and diapers.
“There would be people that we didn’t even know who stopped to bring us food and to check and see if we needed anything, “Craven remembered. “There was such a sense of community.”
The community also prayed and prayed, and God answered.
Stan says he lived a normal teen life. He played baseball and basketball, but he didn’t dare play football. Of course, brothers will be brothers; there was fighting and a ruckus at times. “We were typical teen brothers. We could tear a house down in 2.5,” everyone chuckled at the fond memories from their childhood.
The family gathered together at Steve and his wife, Dianne’s home, Saturday to reminisce about the goodness of God, their blessings, and thankful hearts.
During those times, families really stuck together. There is just something about praying for each other, caring for each other, in the good times and in the bad, that brings a family together forever. While the parents have gone home to be with the Lord, their aunts are still a great part of their lives.
Stanley remembered a particular visit he had with one of his greatest caregivers, Dr. Rafe Banks.
”I found out my kidneys were failing," he said. "They couldn’t handle this growing boy.”
This started when Stan was in the 11th grade and by 1980 his kidneys failed and Stan started on dialysis. Dr. Banks, “the guru of transplants,” told him he could be put on the transplant list or have the family tested to look for a match. He knew he had a twin brother, so that’s where they started, and Steve was a perfect match, and Pam matched as well.
When Steve found he was a match, he said, “I never batted an eye. I would do anything I needed to do.”
On May 27, 1981, at 20 years old, the brothers rolled out of their rooms, into separate elevators, and met again in the operating room where the surgery was performed at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Stan said he was in the hospital for ten days and Steve said he was out in five to seven days.
Of course, Stan is on antirejection medicine to this day, but he’s had a good life.
“I married the woman of my dreams, the late Vickie Westmoreland, in 1979," he said.
He was able to hold down a full-time job most of his life. In fact, during his employment at the Georgia Department of Transportation, he didn’t miss a day in 11 years.
“I was not going to let a handicap keep me down," he said.
Today, the brother's bond is one that will never be broken. They shared the womb; they have been together through thick and thin, but their bond goes so much deeper.
“It was worth donating a kidney to have him here with me. He’s not just my brother, he’s a friend,” Steve declared. At times they see each other during the week, and probably talk even more, but there is something about Saturday mornings.
“We get together, shoot the breeze, and catch up on what’s happened during the week," Steve said.
Stan has seen health and he has seen illness, which makes him most grateful. “Life is more precious today because I’m healthy.”
They all admit there have been good times and there have been a few rough spots, but by far, each member points to the grace and mercy of Almighty God.
“We give God all the credit,” Stan said and all the family nodded their heads in agreement and thanksgiving.
As this family fellowships together, there is plenty of fellowship, laughter, and gratefulness that they of what the Lord has done.